Greenland Whalefishers,
Streets of Salvation
(Patchwork, 2003)

Sometimes I really want to take up drinking. I don't usually miss the panicked mornings after, or the hangovers, or having to rent a cab to get home. But when I hear the Greenland Whalefishers blasting along the Streets of Salvation, sounding drunk, half mad and insanely pleased with themselves, I can't help but feel that I'm missing a level of fun only accessible through liquid of at least 50 proof.

Everyone's going to want to compare this to the Pogues. That's a grave disservice to the Greenland Whalefishers. While they admit to trawling the same waters for some of their influences, no sound-alike band would be this fun. The Whalefishers sound like themselves, boisterous and rough and slightly less coherent than the Pogues on a good day. There's Arvid Grov, with a voice almost too rough even for this sort of pub-punk, whose shouted lyrics grab the melody for dear life. Orjan Eikeland Risan's jolting percussion sets up the proper base for Trond Olsen's and Terje Schumann Olsen's rough and tumble licks, played with flair and enthusiasm. And then there's the manically bizarre contributions of Gunnar "Two Sheds" Grov and Agnes Skollevoll, playing tin whistles and bouzoukis and banjo, and working with a pair of fine fiddlers to make the whole group sound like an old village band that got transported to a modern city, discovered electric amplifiers and went more than a bit mad.

The loose-stringed sound of the band comes across better in their more rambunctious pieces, like the title song and the perversely gleeful "The Night Rick Holder Died." Sadder numbers like the "No More Crucified Days" show a tendency to crawl along, too tired to pick up their pace and fly as they seem to wish. "The Party's Over" contrasts these attitudes to good effect, and "Lost in Paradise" seems almost to mock the band's own slower and more maudlin delivery. But those pleasures just don't beat having your limbs mutiny away from your control to dance with when the "Insane Came Marching In."

The occasional clearly shouted verse shows that the Whalefisher's songs have more behind them than just good tunes. But those good tunes are insistent masters, and any attempt to stop moving and focus on the lyrics will soon be overwhelmed by the urge to shout and cheer along. There pounding rhythms also demand to be danced with, but no polite social interaction could get along with these songs; they call for the kind of mad, stomping party dances that end with everyone bruised and not sure who or what their last partner was.

So it's good music, and what else could you want? It'll put the life back in your night when you think you're done in. Play it during the morning commute and you'll arrive at work with a dangerous level of enthusiasm. You may never be able to make out the lyrics ... but the more you hear, the less that matters. Streets of Salvation is great wild rock, urgent and independent, and just plain tooth-gritting fun that will lower you faster than the strongest drink of your choice. In a few years, fans of pub rock music will be accusing upcoming bands of sounding like the Greenland Whalefishers.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 12 February 2005